Authored by John Miller
If you’ve got your eyes set on Russia for your next vacation, then there’s certainly no looking back! Its grandeur and opulence in combination with the harshness of its climate will cast a spell on you.
As one of the most beautiful winter destinations in the world, Russia owes its popularity to the incredibly scenery and the majestic places it has to offer. Here is a list of only a few of them.
You can’t go to Russia and not visit Moscow! This cosmopolite metropolis of more than ten million people is a fascinating blend of culture, nightclubs, and history. It is so diverse that you may just end up feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by all it has to offer.
Top attractions in Moscow include the Red Square, Lenin’s Tomb, the Kremlin and great museums (such as the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art or the Tretyakov Gallery).
Also, make sure you don’t miss their incredible subway system and some of the most beautiful stations you’ll ever see, such as Ploschad Revolutsii, Komsomolskaya, Mayakovskaya or Novoslobodskaya.
The Trans-Siberian Railway
At 9,000 kilometers, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world, and one of the greatest rail journeys on earth. It traverses Siberia, connecting Moscow to Vladivostok, and represents a once in a lifetime trip that allows you to explore and understand Russia from the comfort of a train.
The journey usually lasts around a week, depending on your preferred route. And not only are the prices lower in winter than in the summertime, but there are also fewer tourists. That way, you can meet more locals and actually experience the Russian culture.
Taking the Trans-Siberian trip during the cold season will also reveal the true Russian winter you’ve only read about in books; when Siberia is at its most beautiful, snowy and photogenic.
St Petersburg in winter has been describes as like “stepping into a Russian novel”. Frozen rivers and canals form part of a white sculptural landscape, which is absolutely enchanting, and snowflakes glisten in the sun.
National Geographic summed it up perfectly when they said “the beauty and culture of this Russian city are never more pronounced than when it is covered in a blanket of snow. A dusting of white ramps up the fairy-tale factor of architectural gems like the immense Winter Palace and ornate Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.”
The city is a hub for outdoor winter activities, with ice-skating and skiiing the most popular local pass times. Victory Park has one of the largest outdoor skating rinks in the country. Temperatures rarely rise above freezing though, so you should pre-book a St Petersburg taxi online so you don’t have to wait outside.
Now part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage, Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest freshwater lake, measuring a depth of approximately 1600 meters, and completely frozen during winter.
Due to its location in remote Siberia, Lake Baikal is not a huge tourist destination. And wintertime brings even fewer tourists, which is unfortunate because the frozen white landscape is breathtaking and like nothing else in this world.
You can get to the lake either via Irkutsk city or Ulan-Ude, a fascinating Buddhist city. Severobaykalsk is another option, as well. In addition to the extraordinary landscape, you can also enjoy plenty of fun activities here, such as skating, skiing, dog sleighing or fishing trips.
The Republic of Yakutia
The Sakha Republic or Yakutia is Russia’s largest region, covering about 18% of its surface (almost the size of India, as a comparison.) It’s also one of the coldest places on Earth with average winter temperatures going as low as -30 degree Celsius. The record is -67C set in settlement of Oymyakon, in 1933!
If you want to experience an extreme climate, Yakutia is the perfect destination. The coldest period is from December to late February when it just so happens that prices drop and trip costs are significantly reduced. Just be sure to prepare yourself for the weather.
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Photo credits: Featured header image by Tony. Saint Basil’s Cathedral by Sergey Rodovnichenko. Komsomolskaya metro station by Victor Bergmann. St Isaacs by Derren Hodson. Olkhon Island (standing on Lake Bikal) by Marco Fieber.